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Nature. 2006 Jun 22;441(7096):1015-9.

Smad4 signalling in T cells is required for suppression of gastrointestinal cancer.

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Laboratory of Cell Regulation and Carcinogenesis, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.

Erratum in

  • Nature. 2006 Dec 7;444(7120):780. Kasperczak, Barbara [corrected to Kasprzak, Barbara].


SMAD4 (MAD homologue 4 (Drosophila)), also known as DPC4 (deleted in pancreatic cancer), is a tumour suppressor gene that encodes a central mediator of transforming growth factor-beta signalling. Germline mutations in SMAD4 are found in over 50% of patients with familial juvenile polyposis, an autosomal dominant disorder characterized by predisposition to hamartomatous polyps and gastrointestinal cancer. Dense inflammatory cell infiltrates underlay grossly normal appearing, non-polypoid colonic and gastric mucosa of patients with familial juvenile polyposis. This prominent stromal component suggests that loss of SMAD4-dependent signalling in cells within the epithelial microenvironment has an important role in the evolution of intestinal tumorigenesis in this syndrome. Here we show that selective loss of Smad4-dependent signalling in T cells leads to spontaneous epithelial cancers throughout the gastrointestinal tract in mice, whereas epithelial-specific deletion of the Smad4 gene does not. Tumours arising within the colon, rectum, duodenum, stomach and oral cavity are stroma-rich with dense plasma cell infiltrates. Smad4(-/-) T cells produce abundant T(H)2-type cytokines including interleukin (IL)-5, IL-6 and IL-13, known mediators of plasma cell and stromal expansion. The results support the concept that cancer, as an outcome, reflects the loss of the normal communication between the cellular constituents of a given organ, and indicate that Smad4-deficient T cells ultimately send the wrong message to their stromal and epithelial neighbours.

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